Domestic solar panels would not justify green belt harm

Sixty solar panels for domestic use have been refused in open countryside in the Kent green belt and in an area of outstanding natural beauty as inappropriate development causing loss of openness and harm to the appearance and character of the area and AONB, with limited wider environmental benefits deemed to justify the scheme.

400-024-864 (Image Credit: Tunbridge Wells BC)
400-024-864 (Image Credit: Tunbridge Wells BC)

The inspector referred to paragraph 147 of the NPPF in relation to renewable energy projects in the green belt generally being inappropriate development and only justified where wider environmental benefits were obtained. In this case the proposal was to serve a single dwelling providing 80 per cent of their energy needs. Firstly, the inspector noted the appeal site comprised an open grassed area adjoining a property and the 60 panels would be up to 2.6 metres high which she felt were not insubstantial. She considered the proposal would have a harmful effect on the spatial openness of the green belt in this regard. In terms of their visual effect, the inspector held the engineered and industrial form of the panels would be harmful to the open rural landscape at the site and be visible from public viewpoints. She concluded there would be spatial and visual loss of openness from the proposal and therefore significant harm arising. 

The inspector additionally found harm to the appearance and character of the area and the scenic beauty of the AONB by virtue of the large synthetic panels covering a notable area of attractive open land. In reaching this conclusion the inspector dismissed the appellants’ argument that the site was within his residential curtilage and similar to other solar panels approved locally. She held the site had more in common with the open countryside than residential curtilage. Ultimately, the inspector found that the benefits of the renewable energy scheme for a single property were limited and did not outweigh the harms to the green belt and other harms identified.

Inspector: H Miles; Written representations

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